By Katina Caraganis

MediaNews

PEPPERELL -- The North Middlesex Regional School Committee celebrated a successful passing of a Proposition 2 1/2 override at its meeting Thursday night, saying that it was a long time coming.

Superintendent of Schools Joan Landers praised the work of everyone involved in getting the vote passed.

"I want to thank the administration and everyone. It was a collaborative effort and I feel the students will get everything they need right now," she said.

Chairwoman Susan Robbins echoed the sentiments, saying she's glad the district finally has a solid budget in place.

"I want to recognize the significant contributions made by everybody to get this done. I can't find the right words, but just know it is truly appreciated," she said.

School Committee member Ken Brown of Ashby said that while he's glad the vote passed, the tight margin of victory in his town made him realize the School Committee needs to do a better job getting the word out about things going on.

The vote passed in Ashby, 515-512.

"It tells me that as a school committee, we have a job to do in working with the communities. We're trying to build a consensus and the one thing I took away from this is there were a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings out there on key issues," he said. "We need to do a better job at communicating and implementing a plan going forward."

Landers told the School Committee that she was able to keep class sizes low in the majority of classrooms across the district at the committee's request but was not able to do it everywhere.

She said that some second-grade classrooms at Varnum Brook had 25 or 26 students in it, which is more than the committee wanted, while other classes in Ashby Elementary were relatively small.

She said in light of that, she's put hiring a reading specialist for the middle schools on hold so she can speak with principals about possibly sending some students to Ashby if they chose.

"If a parent wants to send their student to Ashby for the smaller class sizes and is willing to get their child there, I think we should give them the option to do that," she said.

School Committee member Anne Buchholz said it sounds like a good idea if the logistics could be worked out, but she suggested Landers check the regional school district contract.

"I think the regional school contract may not allow school choice within the district," she said.